of two factors: an increase in complexity of compound semiconductors and the current small size of the market.
Pat Windham asked a follow-up question about funding needs. He cited a perception in Washington that the new, high-tech industries involved in such fields as solid-state lighting are already doing enough technology development, thanks to partnerships with the venture capital industry and large companies. According to this view there is little need for government funding beyond some support for basic research at universities. What, he asked, is the rationale for a larger government role?
George Craford responded that part of the reason for government support is a matter of timing. If the industry is allowed to evolve without any outside stimulus or national policy, he said, it would evolve slowly at a time when the governments of other countries are aggressively funding research. Private firms are limited in how much they can invest in research by the realities of quarterly and even monthly statements, and their R&D money is usually applied to the shortest-range research on new products to generate revenue. The primary beneficiary of high efficiency LED lighting will be the consumer who will save on energy costs. The LED companies will also gain revenue but general LED lighting is perceived to be quite far in the future and is high risk. Given enough time, he said, the industry will eventually develop the technologies needed, but if the nation wants to accelerate that development, it will require some government push in basic research and in development.
Dr. DenBaars pointed out that the industry would not have 6-inch gallium arsenide wafers today if it were not for government support. The same is true for 4-inch silicon carbide wafers, whose development received substantial government funding that helped drive costs down. He suggested that if the industry had a government partner, it might reach its goals of efficient, effective, low-cost lighting in 5 to 10 years instead of 30 years.
Mr. Trimble reminded participants of Dr. Kennedy’s earlier assertion that innovative applications, such as architecture and office applications, will stimulate the design of different forms of lighting and the evolution from the point source to the panel. At the same time, the availability of these new forms will be important in identifying and opening new markets. These new applications are sufficiently uncertain, however, that startup and even large companies would not be able to sufficiently fund an R&D process. He agreed with Dr. Craford that the industry would eventually move in that direction, driven in part by the economics of energy costs, but the cost of energy would have to rise substantially before it brought a significant incentive to save lighting power.